Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Back in Mrs Brexit May's England

Leave voters were sold lies about NHS funding
Chief liar Johnson then promoted to UK Foreign Secretary
After five good weeks in the Loire we are now back in London. Back to Mrs May's Bedlam. Back to complete confusion over what Brexit might actually mean. After five weeks away we are no further forward in knowing what the UK government intends to do than we were back in the second week in September.

May's mantra that Brexit means Brexit is about as helpful as saying Weetabix means Weetabix or Pain au Chocolate means Pain au Chocolate. It is increasingly apparent that May is well out of her depth and her government has little nor no idea what it is doing. Little wonder that Nicola Sturgeon expressed very considerable frustration after her meeting with Brexit May yesterday.

Despite May and her government's continued inability to work out what Brexit actually means, its implications for the UK and meaning are increasingly evident:

• A plunging pound against both the dollar and the euro 
• Large banks considering moving HQs out of London in the next few months
• Nissan not committing to further investment in its car plant in Sunderland, whose voters opted to leave the EU.
• A marked increase in racial and homophobic attacks since the referendum of 23rd June 2016

• May looking increasingly out of her depth.
• Other EU leaders appear to have summed May up and got her number.
• Johnson, Davis and Fox appear to be ready to inflict maximum damage on the UK's economy on the Brexit altar.

• There are serious implications for Scotland and Ireland and can these be squared? May appears to think they can be fed a few talking bones and all will be OK. 

I could go on but it is too depressing. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Loire 2016: to have and have not

If there is any Loire appellation that could stand a difficult and virtually non-existent vintage, it is Sancerre. Instead, if there is any substantial Ligerian appellation that has come through this 'very complicated year' relatively unscathed it is Sancerre. Indeed there appear to be a good number of Sancerre producers who have enjoyed a normal to bumper crop in 2016. 
 "It's almost scandalous!" admits Philippe Prieur of Domaine Paul Prieur in Verdigny.   
Sancerre – the haves:
Paul and Benoît Fouassier
We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on the 14th. Our Sauvignon Blanc was hit by frost, coulure and then the drought with a significant amount of these grapes burnt by the heat of July and August. We haven't fully calculated the yields yet but it is between 30hl-40hl per ha for Sauvignon Blanc with the fruit between 12-13 potential alcohol with acidity varying from 4.5- 4.8. The acidity levels are higher than 2015 but lower than 2014.
The Pinot Noir fared better both at flowering and from the heat of the summer, so yields of 42 hl/ha and 13.5% potential alc."
Henry Natter (Montigny)
Unlike many other Sancerre producers, Henry Natter was in the middle of picking but well satisfied with the quantity and quality of the 2016 vintage. Often one of the last in the appellation to picky Natter still had another five days of harvest to do. 
Vincent and Adélaïde Grall (Sancerre)
The Gralls were decidedly happy with 2016. Vincent: "We finished last Wednesday (12th October) having started on the 3rd October. Our Sauvignon is between 11.5-12.5. Following the rain towards the end of September the grapes have plenty of juice, so we have made 65 hl/ha.
Alphonse Mellot jnr (Sancerre)
"The Sancerre reds are exceptional, while the whites are good. In terms of yields the reds are at 28 hl/ha (Mellot always has low yields for their Pinot Noir), while the Sauvignon Blanc is between 50-55 hl/ha."
However the picture is very different for the Mellot vines in the Côtes de la Charité, which was badly hit by the April frosts. "Here it is 6hl/ha for the Chardonnay and just 4 hl/ha for the Pinot Noir."  

Matthieu and Jean-Yves Delaporte, Domaine Vincent Delaporte (Chavignol)
I caught up with Matthieu and his father Jean-Yves early on Monday evening when they were finshing sorting over their last cases of Pinot Noir. Both were well pleased with the 2016 – 60hl/ha for the whites and 50 hl/ha for the reds.
Pierre Martin (Chavignol) 
"It's a good vintage. We started on Wednesday 5th October and finished yesterday (17th October). The rain in mid to end of September was crucial after the long dry spell in July, August and early September. Our Sauvignon Blanc is between 12-13% potential alc and 4-4.3 acidity, while the Pinot Noir is at 13% potential. Yields are between 55-60 hl/ha.
Gérard Boulay (Chavignol)
Gérard was also happy  with 2016. "We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on Sunday 16th. Our white Sancerre is between 12%-13.5%, while the Pinot is at 13.5%. There is a lot of tartaric acid this year – the recent fresh nights have been good for maintaining acidity. Yields are between 45/50 hl/ha. The Cul de Beaujeu is particularly good."

Domaine Paul Prieur (Verdigny)
Luc Prieur: "We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on Friday 14th." Luc is very happy with the quality of 2016. "Our Sauvignon came in at between 12%-12.5% potential and 4.7 to 5 acidity with a yield between 55-60 hl/ha, while the Pinot is at 13.6%-14% and 50 hl/ha. Some of our Pinot suffered from mildew and sunburn during the heat of July and August. 
François Crochet (Bué)
François and Karine Crochet are also very happy with their 2016. François: "We started on Friday 30th September having got special permission to start early. Yields for the Sauvignon are between 45-50 hl with a potential around 12% and 5 gms acidity. We had to pick our Pinot twice as grapes facing south got burnt by the sun. We picked these first to make rosé. These grapes came in at 13.3%. The rest we picked a little later for our Sancerre Rouge and were up to 14% potential. The Pinot yield is around 35-40 hl/ha."
François likens 2016 to the 2014s, while a number of other Sancerre producers put 2016 between 2014 and 2015 in style, so having some of the richness of 2015 but more acidity than 15 and less than 14. Certainly the juices that I tasted appeared promising – clean, mouth-filling with a freshness in the finish.

The have nots

Above Les Loges, Pouilly-Fumé 


Jonathan Pabiot (Les Loges, Pouilly-sur-Loire)
"Overall we lost 65% of the crop including all of our Chasselas. We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on 13th. The communes of Saint Martin, Saint-Laurent and to the south of Pouilly-sur-Loire – the southern part of the appellation – was particularly badly hit by the frost. In some of our parcels where we normally harvest 50 hl/ha we only managed 5 hl/ha, while in the commune of Tracy we picked 35hl/ha. Fortunately our best parcels escaped the frost."
Michel Redde et Fils (Pouilly-sur-Loire)
Sébastien Redde: "It has been a very complicated year. Of our 42 hectares, 10ha have recorded a total loss – no more than 2 ha/ha, 5 hectares were hit between 20%-50% by the frost here we averaged 15 hl/ha.  After the April frosts the mildew ravaged two hectares with a 90% loss. Overall we have made 30 hl/ha but the quality is good.
Masson-Blondelet (Pouilly-sur-Loire)
Pierre-François Masson: "Some of our Pouilly-Fumé parcels were badly hit. In those in the commune of St Martin we only picked 7.5 hl/ha and the same for those in Pouilly. However, our vines in Saint-Andelain were not hit by the frost. We are happy with what we picked in Sancerre – 45 hl/ha, while for the Pinot it was down – 25 hl/ha compared to around 40 hl/ha in a normal year. Unfortunately we will have to restrict allocations."   

Domaine Philippe Gilbert

Menetou-Salon is among the worst hit by the April frost of the Loire appellations and Philippe Gilbert is no exception. "In a normal vintage we make 500hl of both red and white, so 1000 hls. This year we have 17 hls of rosé, between 60-70 hls of red and between 60 - 68 hls of white." This adds up to around 150-160 hls in 2016. – 15% of a normal year." The fact that the quality in 2016 is high must, of course, be particularly galling.

Philippe will not be going to Millésime Bio in January 2017. "There is no point in me going just to explain that I have no wine to sell!" he says.


Today we cross La Manche and return to to Madame May's lunatic asylum – no further comment required!


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Recently enjoyed – Pouilly-Fumé 2014, Sancerre 2015 and Chinon 2005

Here are three Loires that we have very recently enjoyed – 2014 La Moynerie Pouilly-Fumé* from Michel Redde et fils, the 2015 Le Manoir* from Vincent Grall and 2005 Les Marronniers Chinon from Baudry-Dutour.  

It was very interesting to compare the 14 Pouilly-Fumé with the 15 Le Manoir. Both had good ripe fruit and attractive mouthfilling texture. However, the 14 Pouilly-Fumé had more zip in the finish with lovely balance. I think this is likely to be largely down to vintage difference with 2014 having more marked acidity, while 2015 has less acidity and a seductive roundness. Both are good vintages and are drinking very well now, so which wine you prefer is down to personal preference. I opt for the 2014 vintage with its higher acidity and freshness but many will, doubtless, prefer the sleek 2015s.

Eleven years on the 2005 Cabernet Francs are now delicious the initially marked tannins have softened. The 2005 Clos des Marronniers, Chinon from Baudry-Dutour is a good example with its very seductive soft fruit and fully integrated tannins. The 2005 remains deep coloured with no sign of brickiness. Proof that Loire reds merit cellaring! 

* Both of these wines were samples given me to taste.